By: Denis Droppa

Johannesburg - The Suzuki Jimny is a David-vs-Goliath character that’s been around for a few years embarrassing much bigger and pricier SUVs on the 4x4 trails.

The automatic version of the little two-door SUV recently returned to our offices for a revisit, just to remind us it’s still around and still one of the cheapest 4x4s you can buy in South Africa, at R251 900 for the manual and R269 900 for the auto.

It also comes loaded with some new toys. Late in 2015 year the tiny off-roader got connected to the 21st century by receiving Bluetooth for hands-free telephony and audio streaming. At the same time the upgraded sound system acquired RDS functionality for the radio and MP3 compatibility for the CD player, a USB port with Android and Apple device compatibility, and an auxiliary input socket.

This newly-acquired musical functionality is bundled into a Pioneer sound system with a large and fairly easy to use head unit featuring real buttons, instead of a touch-screen which can sometimes be finicky to use. A bit of a party atmosphere is created by the head unit lighting up like a disco in constantly changing colours (which is surprisingly not too driver-distracting).

The cabin has also been spruced up with a new instrument cluster featuring a trip meter and transfer case indicator, but there’s still no fuel consumption readout.

Apart from the audio’s party lights, the Jimny’s cabin is very basic and functional. The cloth-covered seats and plasticky dashboard don’t convey a premium feel but it all seems put together solidly enough.

Aircon is one of the few luxuries that come standard and the twist-style ventilation controls are standard off-the-shelf Japanese issue: neatly arranged and simple to use.

The remainder of the gadget count comprises remote central locking and electric windows, with safety taken care of by dual front airbags and ABS anti-lock brakes.

Dinky-toy size

With its cute and chunky styling the Jimny looks like a dinky toy and is basically sized like one. Officially it’s a four-seater but the front occupants bump elbows in the narrow vehicle, and the back bench is so tight that adults might need to be surgically removed – if they were able to squeeze themselves in to begin with. The boot’s tiny too and it’s best to treat this car as a two-seater. When you flip down the rear seats there’s decent-sized luggage space, and there’s a full-sized spare wheel mounted on the tailgate.

It’s this diminutive size that gives the Jimny much of its giant-killing off-road ability, allowing it to zip through tight and technical offroad sections that might stop larger 4x4s in their tracks.

Its very short wheelbase and high 190mm ground clearance give it excellent approach, departure and breakover angles, making it scamper over hilly turf like a long-legged miniature pinscher.

The lack of a rear differential lock will make this Suzuki struggle over certain axle-twisting obstacles, but it does have decent traction with selectable all-wheel drive in high and low range. Flicking through these modes is made easy by an array of buttons on the dash.

Choppy ride

The small size and manoeuvrability also makes the little Suzuki very easy to park. The short wheelbase gives the Jimny a very choppy ride, however, and it’s not a vehicle for those with a weak constitution, especially over anything resembling a bump.

The little lawnmower engine will also not get you anywhere in a big hurry. Its very modest outputs of 63kW and 110Nm mean there aren’t many traffic gaps you can punch into. It’s fine for nipping around town, and in urban commuting the four-speed auto gearbox makes a happy partner. But out on the open road you have to really harass and coax the little 1.3-litre petrol engine to get to the national speed limit, and unless there’s a downhill the auto ‘box needs to keep constantly shifting between third and fourth gears to maintain the pace.

Eventually, out of mechanical sympathy, you settle for the slow lane and cruise along with the trucks and the Tazzes. This isn’t a car for life in the fast lane.

Because it gets worked so hard just to keep up with regular traffic the Jimny’s consumption is a rather high nine litres per 100km – and this excluded any off-roading.

Both manual and automatic versions of the Jimny are covered by a three-year or 100 000km warranty, as well as a four-year or 60 000km service plan.

VERDICT

During its 40 years of existence the Suzuki Jimny – previously known as the SJ series and the Samurai – has attracted a worldwide cult following and it’s easy to understand why. This little underdog of an adventure vehicle has the offroad ability of SUVs twice its price, and it’s as cute as a puppy.

Just don’t be in a tearing hurry to get anywhere.

FACTS

Suzuki Jimny 1.3 AT

Engine: 1.3-litre, 4-cylinder petrol

Gearbox: Four-speed automatic

Power: 63kW @ 6000rpm

Torque: 110Nm @ 4100rpm

0-100km/h (claimed): 17.2 seconds

Top speed (claimed): 135km/h

Price: R269 900

Warranty: Three-year/100 000km

Service/Maintenance plan: Four-year/90 000km

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